2020 VSA Executive Board Candidates Debate

Video editing by Frankie Knuckles/The Miscellany News.


Jessica Moss: Wonderful! So, since we have the first two candidates, we’re going to get started, and keep on admitting people as we go. So if anybody is having trouble getting in, you can let them know that we’re monitoring our emails, and making sure that everyone can get in if they intend to. So, I’m Jess, I’m the Editor-in-Chief of the Misc, and I will be co-moderating this debate for the Executive Board of Fall 2020 and Spring 2021. We’re going to have the candidates introduce themselves as we go along. But why don’t we start by having some of our moderators introduce themselves? Lucy? 

Lucy Leonard: I’m Lucy, I’m a Senior Editor at the Misc, and I’m going to be typing a transcript of this debate, which we’re going to be posting on our social media platforms after, along with a recorded video.

Frankie Knuckles: I am Frankie, the Managing Editor of the Misc. I am going to be timing candidate responses. I’ll be screen-sharing a timer, so you will see how much time is left for your responses, and I’ll be moderating the chat and monitoring the waiting room.

Jessica: Awesome, thank you guys. So, welcome and thank you to everybody who could make it today. I know that we’ve been in touch over the past week about how this debate will be structured and run, but I thought we’d deliver a brief overview again, for everybody’s sake. So first, please note that we are recording the meeting, it’s being recorded right now. Any students who don’t want to be seen in a video published by the Misc after this conference can turn off their video component, and that also applies for anyone who is going to be speaking, any of the candidates. We also ask that anybody not answering a question should be muted, and anybody who is viewing the debate after it is over, please note that attendance was optional, given the various circumstances in which we find ourselves. So any candidate who wishes to publicize their platform but couldn’t attend the debate has also been to do so has been invited to submit a brief video. Finally, we’re hoping that we can set a tone that relieves the pressure that running an election during this time causes. We have to keep in mind that we’re all living very stressful lives, and to accommodate these conditions, we’re hoping to set a calmer, friendlier, and less competitive tone if possible. So to that end, we know there can be high pressure to say everything you need to say in a limited amount of time, and in order to reduce that pressure, the Misc invites everybody, all the candidates  here tonight or not, to send us a tweet on anything you would like to reiterate before midnight tonight, which we’ll publish on our Twitter. Finally, for those who are running in positions that are not unopposed tonight, while this is a debate, in an effort to foster a friendlier environment, we will not be having any direct responses to one another, just merely answering the same questions that everybody’s going to be asked. You of course can comment on one another’s platforms if appropriate, in your own responses. But here’s how the debate is going to be structured: So we’ll start with the candidate for VSA President, and we will proceed to VSA Vice President in the order that we established and sent around in the election guide. Each candidate is going to be allotted 30 seconds for an opening statement. That should include your name, the position you’re running for and your personal pronouns. Then, we’re going to ask everybody two questions. You will have one minute allotted to answer each of those questions, and after that, we’re going to take any questions that student constituents had sent in prior to this debate via email or sent in the chat box in this Zoom conference, if there are any. After we answer those questions, candidates will have one minute to deliver a closing statement. So we’ll be muting and unmuting attendees to allow people equal speaking time, and Frankie, who is currently the Miscellany News box, they’re going to be sharing a timer on their screen so you will be apprised of however much time is remaining as you’re answering the questions. Do we have any questions from any of the candidates before we dive in? I’m looking at the chat box right now. Wonderful. So, with that, we’re gonna try to dive in, we’re gonna try to have a friendly and respectful debate, and really just use this time to listen to and explore each other’s great ideas. Awesome. So with that, why don’t we begin with our candidate for president, Prashit? We’re gonna unmute you, and we’ll begin with a 30-second opening statement. Please include your name, pronouns, and the position that you’re running for.

[Audio issues prevent candidate for President from speaking immediately.]

Jessica: We’ll come back to Prashit, but I guess we can move onto our candidate for Vice President, Joshua. Joshua, are you prepared to deliver a 30-second opening statement, including your name, pronouns, and the position that you’re running for? Awesome. OK. I’ll unmute you, and you can get started.

Joshua Lacoste: Awesome, thank you so much. Hi, my name is Joshua Lacoste, I use he/him/his pronouns. I am a rising senior and biochemistry major, French and francophone studies correlate. Here at Vassar, currently I’m involved with varsity track, Habitat for Humanity, a capella, and I’m a 2021 Senator. I’m really looking forward to our conversation tonight. Thank you.

Jessica: Thank you so much. So we’ll now ask you two questions. My first question is: The Vice President chairs the Board of Strategic Planning, and in this capacity, you would be asked to facilitate long-term planning for the VSA. How would you work to imagine potential improvements to the functioning of the VSA, and how would you be able to respond to the changing needs of the student community?

Joshua: Thank you so much for that question. I think it’s important to come in with set goals for the future, but also be adaptable and flexible to fit the College’s needs. From a logistical standpoint, I do think that I have many specific short term and long term goals for the future of this college. These range from short term goals such as rewording the VSA bylaws to kind of eliminate outdated wording and promote more inclusive language, but also some long term goals such as working with the Environmental Action Committee, set up more concrete long term visions for making Vassar more sustainable. But as I mentioned earlier, I think it’s really critical to be flexible to the students’ needs. So in that regard, I’d work with the rest of VSA, especially class senators, to kind of understand what students’ concerns are. I would also utilize my weekly office hours and work in tandem with the VSA interns as a way to understand what the needs are in the student community and how we can best address these topics.

Jessica: Amazing, thank you so much. Onto the second question, you also have one minute to answer this one. One aspect of your prospective position is to serve as a student representative on the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid. How do you plan to advocate for applicants to help ensure that Vassar admits students from a variety of backgrounds?

Joshua: Sure, thank you for that question. That’s something that’s pretty important to me, as I rely heavily on financial aid. It’s the only reason I can attend Vassar. Over the past couple years, I’ve really enjoyed volunteering with the admissions office, so I’ve done a lot of things, from hosting prospective students, to helping with Admitted Students’ Day, and even volunteering with admissions programming such as Focus Weekend, which just happened, which allows admitted students from diverse backgrounds to kind of come experience the Vassar campus and community. So I’ve definitely learned a lot from these experiences and met a lot of different students, and I know that I’ll be able to bring a unique perspective to this committee, and definitely advocate on students’ behalf. 

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you so much. So now we have questions from the audience. We have time for a maximum of two questions. I see that we have received one from a student. And you will have one minute to answer these questions, but I’m gonna wait another minute in case somebody else is typing one. OK, so if anyone wants to finish up asking a second question, you are welcome to, but it’s also fine if we only have one. So, let’s move on to your audience question: “This year, the campus has been rocked by two controversies. We’ve had a series of protests, one of which is through the current grading policy, and, during both of the protests that are being referenced, I knew a lot of students who have had the question of ‘Where is VSA?’ So, what role (if any) do you think VSA should have in moderating controversies between student groups or between students and the administrations
?” You have one minute.

Joshua: Awesome. Thank you so much for that question. I think something that’s really important is to promote conversation and promote an easier environment where people can share their concerns. A lot of times I feel like students feel like their worries and concerns are brushed off by the administration. In regards to where is the VSA, I was serving as a Class of 2021 Senator this past semester, as I was abroad in the fall, and I know it might not have seemed as if we took as active as a stance as we could towards a lot of these topics, but we do a lot of behind the scenes work regarding these things with the different committees that we’re on. But I do think that moving forward into the future, the VSA could hold more of an active stance in kind of demonstrating what students’ concerns are and bringing those up to administrators to make sure everyone’s voices are heard.

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you so much. We have another question from the audience: “What was the biggest success and biggest failure of the current VSA Executive Board? What would you do differently?
” You have one minute.

Joshua: Awesome. I wasn’t on VSA Exec Board this year, so I don’t know if I can comment on what their biggest success or failure was; also a little bit harder than me since I was abroad for half the year. But things I would do differently? I would definitely take a lot of what has been done in the past and definitely speak with Jenny about what their biggest successes and failures were this year, and see how I can kind of put my own mark onto that, and kind of make this position into something where I see my vision moving forward. And like I mentioned before, a lot of that has to do with long term goals of mine that I would set, as the VSA Vice President is mainly responsible for maintaining the VSA Senate and making sure everything is working properly. So, that would be kind of my big focus. I would take my different experiences and the kinds of people I’ve met over the past three years to kind of make that my own.

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you so much for that response. Now we have time for a one-minute closing statement. Are you ready?

Joshua: Yes.

Jessica: Awesome, we’ll begin that now.

Joshua: Thank you everyone for taking the time to come out here and listen to this conversation. I wanted to thank the Misc for hosting this event, all the other candidates for putting your selves out there, and everyone in the audience listening. I know I’m excited for the future, I have a lot of awesome ideas about moving forward, and I’m really looking forward to continuing this conversation. So thank you.

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you so much, Joshua. Prashit, how are you doing?

Prashit Parikh: Let’s see, can you hear me?

Jessica: Yes we can, wonderful, thank you so much. So, Prashit, we’re gonna go in the same order in which we just went with Joshua. Why don’t we begin with a 30-second opening statement? It should include your name, pronouns, and the position that you’re running for. 

Prashit: Hello everyone, my name is Prashit Parikh. I’m running for VSA President. I use he/him/his pronouns, and I look forward to speaking with you today.

Jessica: Thank you. So now we’ll move on and ask you two questions. You will have one minute to answer each. The first question is: What is your primary platform issue, if any, and how do you seek to use the VSA’s resources to address that issue? You have one minute. 

Prashit: OK, yeah, so I think one big theme that I’ve seen through my previous leadership experiences is lack of communication. Whether it be, like, I know when the student fellow role was transitioning and I was House President there were a lot of misleading conversations that were happening, along with also some VSA things that happened this year, in terms of action being done. So my goal is to basically use my position to coordinate between administration and Board of Trustees, whoever might be in these larger positions with the student body to kind of mediate conversation through meetings I would have with them and forms in my emails, just so that there’s that transparency and people know what’s going on, so that there’s not any hindrance of progress moving forward.

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you so much. So, the second question is, Accessibility to and advocacy for students is one of the top responsibilities of VSA elects. How can you stay connected to constituents, particularly in the event that we are learning remotely, but even if we’re on campus? 

Prashit: OK, yeah, I think that the biggest thing I can do is basically learn everything I can from this year’s Exec, whether it be Carlos, Jenny, or the rest of Exec Board, just making sure we set everything up correctly moving forward. We have had some experience. I’ve been a 2021 Senator as well with Joshua this past semester, and I think we’ve gotten some experience running Senate in that form, and so maybe just moving forward, even just improving that communication. I think in terms of advocating for people who may not be able to have the same resources, that can be done through my email. Just like checking in with students more frequently than not, and just ensuring that everyone’s OK, whether it be through my email outlets or through meetings personally. Office hours, I just want to utilize my time effectively, so anybody who has concerns is able to voice them effectively.

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you. So, we now have time for two audience questions. You will have one minute to respond to each, and I will give us a few seconds to type out any questions. I also believe that the first question I asked the previous candidate is intended for all VSA candidates, so if we don’t have another audience question, I will also ask that to everybody. OK, so we have our first new audience question. The question is: “How is President Bradley doing, and what would you change about her leadership?

Prashit: OK, yeah, so I actually also have basically chaired traditions this year. I’ve taken on that role a little bit later in the year, but that ad that has allowed me to work very closely with President Bradley. I think she’s doing her best, you know? This is a very unprecedented time. There’s a lot of challenges that arise, anything from NAGPRA to the grading system, the other issue was mentioned before in the chat. I think that the way I would change her leadership is just, again, better communication, maybe holding her more accountable, whether that be through conversation, communication—just making sure that whatever steps she’s taking, she’s conversing with us as VSA Exec, other student members, just making sure that she’s really looking at all the viewpoints. But I think overall that we’ll be able to strike a pretty healthy balance there.

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you so much. I’m gonna give us a couple more seconds to give us a new question, and if not, I will go back to the other question. I’m not sure the best way to tell if someone’s in the middle of typing, so I’m doing my best scrolling around! Alright, doesn’t look like anybody is typing, but I’ll give it one more second. OK. Cool. Well, thank you so much. We’re gonna go back to the other question. Again, it says:  “This year, the campus has been rocked by two controversies (that by the Israel/Palestine speaker and the protests by SJP and the current grading-during-quarantine controversy) and, during both of these, I knew that a lot of students who had the question of ‘Where is VSA?’ So, what role (if any) do you think VSA should have in moderating controversies between student groups or between students and the administrators?” And you have one minute.

Prashit: Yeah, thanks so much for that. I think that the main role of the VSA, again, is to  advocate for students, right? That’s why we’re here, that’s why we’re mainly student-led. And so I think that we should definitely take a stance. However, there are rules in place, and I want to do my best to take a stance while still following those. I know with the SJP controversy, we did do our best to craft a statement and put it out there, but again, that has to go through ops and just, you know, really be checked to make sure the language is inclusive to all students and does the best to benefit everybody. So I think that we could really make a change in how we move forward in terms of taking that stance on the behalf of students, and again transparency. There is work being done, in all of these fields, but I think we have to do a better job communicating that to the student body, so that people are aware that it’s actually happening.

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you so much. We will now give you one minute to give a closing statement. Are you all set?

Prashit: Yeah.

Jessica: OK, awesome.

Prashit: Alright everyone, thank you so for tuning in. I really appreciated speaking with you. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out via email. I look forward to doing great work next year if I’m elected, and I just want to make Vassar a great place for students. I know I’ve enjoyed my complete experience here, in the three years that I’ve done so far, and I know there’s gonna be challenges with the remote learning and everything that’s gonna change next year, returning to campus, but I’m looking forward to taking that on with the Executive Board and the rest of the Senate and the VSA as a whole. So thank you for that.

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you so much, Prashit. So, we are going to move on to the Chair of Academics. I believe we have Susannah here? Hi Susannah. I’m just gonna check to see if any other candidates are here real quick. OK, wonderful. So we are going to have the same structure that we just had with the previous two candidates, so why don’t we begin with a 30-second opening statement? It should include your name, pronouns, and the position that you’re running for.

Susannah Karron: I’m a rising senior, I’m Susannah Karron, I use she/her/hers, and I’m running for the Chair of Academics. I’m a philosophy major and a music minor, and my goal is to really help foster an academic environment where everyone can succeed and feel comfortable for the next year and beyond.

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you so much. So now we’re gonna move on to the Misc’s two questions. You’ll have one minute to answer each. Our first question is: The Chair of Academics serves as a liaison between the Dean of Faculty division and the Dean of Studies division. How would you advocate for students whose voices go unheard in decisions made by faculty? How would you ensure that students have an accurate sense of the caculty’s decision-making process? 

Susannah: I believe that it’s crucial to raise concerns to faculty members that may not even be on their radar, because this issue is really affecting everyone uniquely. And so, as a student, I think there’s a greater opportunity for open dialogue, whether it’s informal, just through email or conversation on Zoom or on campus, or more formal office hours, but I still believe there’s an increased sense of comfort because it’s student to student communication. And so I would use my conversations in this capacity to amplify whatever concerns come up to faculty. And I think that the best way to give an accurate sense of faculty’s decision-making process is to ensure that there are more students in the room, so I would like to ideally restructure the CCP so that it includes more students, so that everyone can have their voices shared and it’s not such a game of telephone.

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you. So you sort of touched upon what my next question was. The other committee that you’ll be sitting on is the Committee on Curricular Policy, the CCP. You talked a little bit about how to make yourself available to students, but how would give students an accurate sense of the decision-making policy in that room, particularly given the authority that those faculty have over the grading policy?

Susannah: I would like to really create more opportunities for them to openly converse, so it’s not just exclusively going through me, and so, if we’re in person in the fall, creating meetings between the Dean of Studies and the Dean of Faculty and students, or over Zoom, that way it’s less of me amplifying their voice, rather than having the opportunity to voice questions themselves.

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you so much. So, we’re gonna have time for two questions from the audience. I will give everyone a few seconds to type them out. Yeah. OK, so we have received our first question. We have: “How do you plan to address the issue of textbook accessibility?
” You have one minute to respond.

Susannah: I think that it definitely needs to be a combined effort between both my role and also finance. I think that there could potentially be room to reallocate funding to make sure students have access to textbooks, also to ensure that we’re working with teachers to ensure that the textbooks they’re using are the most cost-effective but don’t necessarily sacrifice quality in that, to ensure that students are not burdening themselves by purchasing textbooks when there are digital versions, or having some sort of textbook exchange program officially implemented.

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you so much. So we have our second audience question now. It reads: “You said that you would increase the number of students on the CCP, but the Governance establishes the number of seats allocated to the VSA. How would you accomplish that goal?
” And you have one minute.

Susannah: I think that it’s something where obviously it would be quite ambitious to try to restructure that, but I think in light of the situation going on this year, a lot of students feel that there need to be more student voices in the room, and so I’m hoping that that could be an opportunity to perhaps alter those guidelines. If that is not the case, I’m hoping that there can be student voices other ways, whether that’s typed letters from students that include their own words so that it’s not just my translation of the words, but that it’s keeping their thoughts and ideas and needs as authentic as possible.

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you so much. So we will move on to the one-minute closing statement. Are you all set?

Susannah: Yes.

Jessica: Awesome.

Susannah: The next school year, regardless of whether it occurs in September, in person, or is altered in any number of ways, is really going to be challenging for any number of reasons, so I’m really committed, as Chair of Academics, to create an environment where people can succeed academically, and to mitigate any academic stressors, stress that can arise between communication between faculty and administration, so that that doesn’t exacerbate the stress that’s already occurring in our world right now.

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you so much. Thank you for coming, Susannah. And we will move on to the Chair of Equity and Inclusion. I believe that is Gabrielle, are you here? Let me unmute her. 

Gabrielle James: Yes, I’m here.

Jessica: Wonderful, hi. So we’re gonna go with the same structure that we just went through. We will begin with a 30-second opening statement. You should include your name, pronouns, and the position that you’re running for.

Gabrielle: Hi everyone, my name is Gabi James. I am a rising junior. I am running for the Chair of Equity and Inclusion. I use she/her/hers pronouns.

Jessica: Thank you so much. So we can move on to the two questions. You will have one minute to answer each of them. So the Misc’s first question is: There are many barriers to equity and inclusion in the college experience. What do you see as one of these major obstacles, and how would you begin to address the barrier you have identified?

Gabrielle: OK. I recognize that all students are at different levels of immersion, experience, interest, and concern throughout the College, and I realize that we’re going to have to have some understanding of the value of contributing as a whole. So like, at Vassar, one of the jobs I would have as this chair is working with different groups on campus, collaborating with all of them as well, so recognizing understandings and accessibility and inclusion. And so, I see that as being able to communicate effectively amongst all of those groups, and amongst all of those students.

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you so much. Yeah, so I guess sort of to respond to that with another question, as one of the few student voices available in a number of administrative offices that affect the equity of student experiences, how do you see your place in these spaces? And how can you make your voice heard, as the student voices you represent, within the administration?

Gabrielle: One of the things that I would like to work on with this position is creating a space that allows for students, faculty, and administration to collaborate with each other, so that all of the possible concerns are voiced as well, and so that we all have some sort of transparency and communication before us. I haven’t really been involved with the VSA before this, so all of this will be new to me, and collaborating with everyone, I hope that as a team we will all be able to do this together—like I said, with communication and transparency, and with me being able to effectively communicate facts to everybody else on the Exec Board, everyone else on the VSA and all of the other students to make sure that any concerns are voiced among faculty, administration, and the entire student body.

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you so much. So, we’re gonna have a little bit of time for two questions from the audience. I’m gonna give us a minute again to type them out and we’ll see what we have. Wonderful. So it looks like we have two questions for you. The first one reads: “Do you have any concrete goals/areas that you feel need improvement that you can directly impact as the Chair of Equity and Inclusion?
” And you have one minute.

Gabrielle: I mentioned it before, but I am not sure that there are any certain groups on campus that have administration, faculty, and students meeting regularly to focus on any student goals. So if there’s an issue on campus that happens and many students are concerned, I realize that often it’s communication that’s the goal among the students— being able to hear what the administration is thinking, so possibly creating some sort of group that has faculty and students meeting regularly to address concerns that all the student body has, so possibly something with that.

Jessica: Thank you so much. And the second audience question is: “How would you handle a violation of equity and/or inclusion on campus?
” And you have one minute.

Gabrielle: With this position, I have realized that for a lot of violations of equity and/or inclusion on campus, my voice is important and crucial, but I would also look for direction from the rest of the Executive Board and the rest of VSA, and make sure that I hear all the voices that are among students. And I want to make sure I have a clear understanding of the violation of equity and inclusion, what happened, because personally I might not have a concrete understanding of what happened, so I’d want to make sure I understand what’s happening, and I want to make sure students are given an understanding of what they can do as a group too to sort of solve the issue at hand.

Jessica: Thank you so much for that answer. So now we’ll move on to the closing statement. You will have one minute. Are you all set?

Gabrielle: Yes. Thank you again to the Misc for having this debate amongst everything that’s happening. Thank you to everyone that’s watching. Thank you to all the other candidates that are able to make it to participate. Thank you to all the people that are asking questions or being actively involved, like I said, in the midst of everything that’s happening right now. Yeah, thank you.

Jessica: Thank you so much, Gabrielle. So with that, we’ll move on to the Chair of Finance. Is Nicole here? Hi Nicole, I see you, I’ll unmute you. Awesome, so we will begin with the same ordering. We’ll start with a 30-second opening statement. Please include your name, pronouns, and the position that you’re running for.

Nicole Pihlstrom: OK. Hello, I’m Nicole, I use she/her/hers pronouns. I’m a rising junior, biochem and math double major. I’ve been on finance committee for two years, all the years I’ve been at Vassar, and I’ve been co-chair of finance this year. I worked closely with Emily to learn the ropes and the behind the scenes stuff. I hope I can use that knowledge to help out treasurers this year.

Jessica: Thank you so much. So, we’ll move on to the two questions. You will have one minute to answer each of them. The first question is: The process for applying for VSA funding and/or appealing Finance Committee decisions is often described as complex and convoluted. How would you go about clarifying the process and ensuring that students know what must be done in order to secure funding that they need to implement programming?  

Nicole: Of course. So, great question, one we got a lot of the time. So, first of all, training for treasurers would be as clear and concise and successful as possible, and during training we’d lay out all the resources necessary to apply for funding and appeal for funding, and obviously, just like Emily, the current Chair of Finance, all the resources will be in my signature. So, documents will all be there. They will be in Google Drive so people can easily access what resources they need and where to go for them. We have all that laid out for them, so it’s just making sure that students know where that is, and that it is accessible, and also maybe just like a little flowchart explaining how to do everything, just making sure that it’s very clear. And my email will always be open, so people can always email me if they have any questions and all that good stuff.

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you so much. So you sort of touched on this; you talked about clarity for treasurers and in their training. But what ways do you plan to make yourself, as an individual, very approachable, and what steps can you take to make treasurers’ jobs as understandable and seamless as possible? You have one minute.

Nicole: Of course. So, same thing. Try not to be intimidating, creating those good working relationships with all treasurers and trying to be as open as possible to questions, just using friendly language so that they come to us. We’re not a scary entity at all—we want to be approachable, we want people to be asking questions, we want to be using all this funding and putting on great programming. So just being as accessible as possible, via email, via office hours, and making sure at times people can come to me and ask questions openly to figure out what they need to get done. Yeah, that’s essentially it.

Jessica: Perfect, thank you so much. So we’ll move on to the audience questions portion. I’ll give everybody a few minutes to type. OK, so we have our first audience question. The question reads: “Is the VSA budget large enough, and would you advocate for an increase in the student activities fee?
” You have one minute.

Nicole: So in my opinion, based off this year of experience, I think the VSA budget is more than large enough. We haven’t had any issue with running out of funding in any way, and we can always move things from different funds if necessary. So the discretion fund is kind of like a large fund where we can move things from there into other sources, like pre-orgs, or speakers, or conferences. I would not advocate for an increase in the student activities fee. I think it’s plenty as it is right now, and we have plenty of resources to do what we need to do and give orgs the funding they need. I don’t see things being an issue. We’ll see how, since things are a little up in the air right now, how this proceeds next year, but I would not advocate for an increase right now. Tuition’s already very expensive!

Jessica: Thank you. I’ll give everybody a second to type up another question. I’m finding that the exercise of waiting for people to type—it has me at the edge of my seat. I’m gonna wait another minute, and if there isn’t a second one, since everyone so far has had two, I have a backup one. OK, alright, so it looks like I will be asking my backup question. You talked about making yourself accessible to treasurers and people who need to be aware of budget concerns, but there are a lot of orgs on campus, so you will be in contact with many treasurers. How do you plan to have individualized relationships?

Nicole: Great question. So, again, just having those open working relationships, reaching out as needed. We try to keep very pristine records—just who’s turning in their stuff, who’s not, and just making sure that they know they have the resources if needed, and keeping up to date with all those clubs, and all those clubs’ leadership. Just like a check-in email: ‘Hey, what’s going on? Is everything OK with your org? Do you need help with anything with funding?’ All that fun stuff. And just like, being as open as possible so people can just stop in the Deece and be like, Hey, I have a quick finance question.’ Or just like, wherever they are on campus, being like ‘Hey, ask me all the questions you have,’ if they need anything. Yeah, that’s essentially it.

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you so much. So we’ll now move on to the closing statement portion. You will have one minute. Are you all set?

Nicole: So, thank you so much to the Misc for hosting this, especially in kind of these wild times. It’s really great that you guys could put this on for us. I’m excited to hopefully work with all the other candidates and all the others on Exec Board this coming year. Hopefully we can make it a good one, whether it’s remote, pushed back a little, in person, I’m excited to work with everybody and make it a great year—get finance organized, have a great year with committee, have a great year with my interns. Yeah.

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you so much, Nicole. And we can move on now to the Chair of Organizations. Is Alistair here? Yes. 

Alistair Tollar: Here I am.

Jessica: Hi, how are you?

Alistair: I’m good.

Jessica: Awesome. So, again, same structure. We will begin with a 30-second opening statement. Please include your name, pronouns, and the position that you’re running for.

Alistair: Awesome. Hi, my name’s Alistair Tollar, he/him. I’m a rising sophomore, a prospective political science major, and I’m running for Chair of Orgs.

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you so much. So we will move on to the question portion. You will have one minute to answer two different questions. The first question that we have is: Programming with the Campus Activities Office is a central task of this position. Do you think that we have enough org programming as is? We couldn’t hear you at first, can you start again?

Alistair: Can you hear me now?

Jessica: Yes we can. Thank you.

Alistair: OK, could you repeat the question? I’m sorry, my sound was being troublesome. 

Jessica: Yeah, no worries, no worries at all. It’s all good. The question was: Programming with the Campus Activities Office is a central task of this position. Do you think that we have enough org programming as is? And you’ll have one minute.

Alistair: OK, perfect. When it comes to org programming, I think that most Vassar students would agree that there’s a lot of it, and for the most part, it’s enjoyable. I know my first year at Vassar was extremely enjoyable. I didn’t feel like I needed to go off campus, like a lot of my other friends do at other colleges, to find entertainment. Whether it’s a cappella shows, comedy shows, Big Night In events or any other kind of programming, there’s a lot of it. But what I think is most important is trying to figure out and trying to be a resource for students who want to create new org programming that wouldn’t necessarily be feasible. Whether that’s in helping them and guiding them what funds to use and go to the Chair of Finance, or just to work with the Campus Activities Office, I think we can increase org programming and hit the ground running next fall.

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you so much. So now we have a little bit more of a philosophical question. So one major part of this position is dealing with upcoming orgs, or groups of students that are applying to become an org. So what do you think makes a trusted, effective and valuable student organization? 

Alistair: Great question, and this is one that we’ve dealt a lot with this past year. When it comes to being a trusted org, I think transparency goes both ways. The VSA wants orgs to be transparent, just like orgs and students want the VSA to be transparent. So this looks like having clear communication with all the Exec Board members who deal readily with orgs, and when it comes to establishing new pre-orgs or whether or not pre-orgs should be bumped up to org status, this simply would be implemented in the sense that clear communication, their finances are in order, and pretty much just being inclusive in their org practices. So, all of that combined would make for a fantastic org, and I think most of the orgs on campus do this now.

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you so much. So now we’ll have some time for the audience to submit questions. We will twiddle our thumbs and wait for a minute. 

Alistair: Twiddling. 

Jessica: We have our first audience question: “Why has Vassar failed to attract any famous speakers in the past couple years? No Clintons, no Obamas, no famous bands or artists or singers or actors. What will you do to ensure that famous individuals are brought to campus as part of student activities?
” You have one minute to answer.

Alistair: Well, sadly, I don’t have any famous connections right now. While I would love to have the Obamas on speed dial, I can’t necessarily be that liaison between the two. But we do have a lot of alumni connections, like Meryl Streep or Lisa Kudrow—both of those are Vassar alumni who have ties to Vassar. So whether that means reaching out through the administration to someone who would know or the various alumni networks, as Org Chair I could also be a liaison between all the orgs on campus and the CDO, if they want to co-sponsor an event with a relatively well known Vassar alum. I think those are good places to start, and who knows? If we can get the Obamas to campus, that will be my number one priority next year. If it’s feasible. Just saying.

Jessica: Thank you so much. So the next student question is: “How do you plan to keep orgs accountable?
” You have one minute.

Alistair: Yeah, so, we’ve dealt with this this past year. There have been a lot—well, not necessarily a lot, like two or three—issues or circumstances that have come up that have required the VSA to launch investigations. The SJP and Voice speaker issue during the first semester was a complicated issue, and as a result the orgs committee, which I was on, and to do this, launched an investigation into the actions by SJP and the speaker from voice, and we looked at the facts, we looked at what actually happened, what was, you know, supposed to happen, what necessarily could have been done better. And with this investigation, it was the best possible way to examine what happened, and if something like this came up in the future, this is probably what we’d do if that would come up.

Jessica: Thank you. So we’ll now move on to the closing statement portion. It will be one minute as well. Are you all set?

Alistair: I am.

Jessica: Awesome.

Alistair: Cool. So, to end my time with you, I’d like to leave you with a quote from Red Forman from That ’70s Show: “I should get this job because I’m experienced, loyal, and hardworking.” And I’d just like to say that I am, I believe, experienced, loyal, and hardworking. I will put all my effort into being the Org of Chairs—uh, Chair of Orgs— and make sure I put a lot of time into the summer, making sure that we hit the ground running in the fall with the fall leadership conference, and making sure that I’m available to all orgs via email over the summer, and have office hours to make sure that I can truly be that resource for all orgs. I look forward to being your Chair of Orgs next year, and I’d just like to thank the Misc for holding this debate, and I’d like to thank all the voters, and remember to vote!

Jessica: Thank you so much, Alistair.

Alistair: Of course.

Jessica: Great, so we can move on now to the Chair of Residential Affairs. Is Lilly here? Looking around—hi Lilly. Let me unmute you.

Lilly Wolsk: Hi.

Jessica: Awesome, wonderful. So again, same deal. Let’s begin with a 30-second opening statement. It should include your name, pronouns, and the position that you’re running for.

Lilly: OK, hi, my name is Lilly, my pronouns are she/her/hers, and I’m running for Chair of Residential Affairs. I’m a rising junior, and this year I served as Strong House President, which made me really appreciate and really want to change some things about House Team, and then also want to connect that to the student body as a whole.

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you so much. We’ll move on to the question portion. You’ll have one minute to answer each question. The first question is: The Chair of Residential Affairs will work closely with a number of different offices of the College, including Res Life, Safety and Security, Dining, CIS, and Student Conduct. How would you approach working with these separate groups, and what do you hope to prioritize during that time?

Lilly: Yeah, so one of the biggest things I want to do when working with these really essential different departments of the school is prioritize transparency between students and these orgs, especially with things like Dining and Campus Security. I feel like there are a lot of myths that go around, and whether or not they’re true is something is something I don’t even know right now. So I’m hoping that in communication with all these departments I can clarify that for the general student body, and yeah, I just hope that there wouldn’t be this loss of communication where it kind of ends coming to me from the services that we have,

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you so much. So, a lot of your position is up in the air, given the current circumstances that may persist into the fall. But should we be in person in the fall, one of your responsibilities would be to offer guidance and support to House Teams. How would you envision bridging the gap between students, House Teams, and VSA Senate?

Lilly: So one of the biggest things that I want to do if I were to be elected is to have House Officers, so not just the presidents but the treasurers, secretaries, programming directors, be much more included with VSA, as they are supposed to get all of their support from VSA. That doesn’t really happen right now, and I think in doing that the House Teams as a whole will really see the inner workings of VSA and also the opinions of the people on House Teams could be better represented to VSA. And I think that House Teams are a really good link between VSA and the general student body if they were to be included more in VSA because a lot of people talk to their student fellows, they talk to members of House Team because they trust them and they’re visible. And so I think by prioritizing that connection between VSA and House Team, it could really extend to the rest of campus.

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you so much. So we now have time for two questions from the audience. I’ll enter the waiting period and give everybody a chance to type. Wonderful, we have our first—and second—audience question. The first audience question is: “As Chair of Residential Affairs and former Strong president, does it make sense to have Strong be an all-women’s dorm (but LBGTQI-friendly)? Shouldn’t all of our dorms be equally open to all genders, particularly after 50 years of coeducation?
” You have one minute to answer.

Lilly: So this is one of the myths that we work really hard as a House Team to combat. Strong is not an all women’s dorm. It is gender inclusive. We changed our mission statement a few years ago, and since then it has been welcome to pretty much anyone who wants to live there. There are typically not many cis males who live in Strong, but in terms of legal standpoints there is no one not permitted to live there. So I don’t see it as not open to anyone. It is a special space, where people can feel like they’re surrounded by people who have maybe gone through similar things as them, and it’s a space where we all really celebrate our identities, but the one thing it’s not is an exclusionary space. So, I wouldn’t say there’s any reason to change that. Strong is a special space but not an exclusionary one.

Jessica: Thank you so much. The next audience question is: “Do you plan to continue the efforts to get payment for house officers?
” And you have one minute.

Lilly: So I do plan to continue those efforts. I was on the committee this year obviously, as a House President, and we worked very hard to get a proposal to Res Life about getting House Officers paid, as they are the only unpaid members of House Team, which has caused a lot of difficult dynamics. We did actually get that proposal approved, so we made a lot of progress this year, but couldn’t actually get them compensated because of what happened at the end of the year, with all the budgets kind of going crazy. But we have our foot in the door, I hope to take that proposal to the deans who can really implement it, and then hopefully have some kind of starting compensation for House Officers by the 2021-2022 school year. Yeah.

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you so much, Lily. So we’ll move on to your one-minute closing statement. Are you all set? Awesome.

Lilly: So I just want to thank everyone for being here and having this discussion. I just want to say to everyone: make sure to vote, no matter who you vote for, because there’s been a lot of upset feeling kind of thing with not feeling represented and I think elections are the best kind of way to make sure you’re getting the best people to represent you. I think that Chair of Residential Affairs is a really important position right now because it’s supporting a lot of vulnerable people on the campus who don’t necessarily get a lot of support from admin. So yeah, thank you for being here and remember to vote.

Jessica: Wonderful, thank you so much, Lilly. I’m going to check to see if we have any candidates for Chair of Health and Wellness real quick. From a quick scan, it doesn’t look like we have any candidates for Chair of Health and Wellness present. So, that concludes our Executive Board debate. It was really nice to meet everybody. Thank you so much for coming, and we wish you the best of luck in the elections, and health and wellness to you and your families. Just so you know, the video of this debate will be found on the Misc’s website by the end of this evening, and if you feel like you’ve missed anything that you want to say, we’re giving all of the candidates the opportunity to give one tweet to the Misc for us to tweet out. This is completely optional, you don’t have to do it if you feel like you’ve covered it. How many characters? Three hundred characters. But yeah, that should be it. Thank you all so much for coming.

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